How to Get Started with the Oxygen Theme for WordPress.com


Blog with mouse 750 x 380(UPDATE 01/13/17: I just switched from Oxygen to Gazette for the theme for this blog. I still use Oxygen on The Sovereign.)

I love the Oxygen theme available for WordPress.com bloggers. It has the look of a paid-for site and is responsive to the different browser and window sizes of your readers’ devices. (See notes.)

“It’s Complicated”

You’re now warned… using the free Oxygen theme at this time can be “complicated.” That is, you’ll have to attend to a number of initial details for set-up, but if you’re willing to learn and also have the time to spend on re-sizing photos after you’ve launched, you’ll have an attractive and useful site for your readers.

I also suspect that I’m receiving more spam comments now that I switched to the Oxygen theme. I regularly delete spam, so this doesn’t bother me. I still recommend the Oxygen theme, but realize this might be an issue for you.

Make the Switch

Are you ready to start? Set aside at least an hour and let’s get going. I’ll refer you to this blog, eQuipping for eMinistry (e4e), or to The Sovereign blog to show you samples of what I chose to do to help you make your own choices. I’m assuming you already have a WordPress.com blog and are just switching themes. You won’t necessarily have to do all that is described below unless you want to keep going. Let’s jump in:

  • Go to Appearance / Themes in the left sidebar of the dashboard. Search for “Oxygen” in the themes (or go here to activate the theme).
  • If you like, view the Live Preview before you activate the new theme to see what your blog will look like “out of the box.” After you activate, you may be perfectly happy with the placement of all your widgets in the sidebars or you may need to do some clean up.
  • You can also stop here if you’re happy with this look and don’t want menus, a featured slide show, background image, or featured header image.

Customize the Look

  • You’ll have two sidebars (I would’ve preferred just one to avoid a cluttered look). The default widgets for the right sidebar are “Blogroll” and “Meta” which I didn’t want to use. The only way to replace them is to go to Appearance / Widgets and drag the widgets you want into the Secondary Sidebar. I recommend keeping all navigation widgets, like “Top Posts” and “Categories,” near the top in the Primary Sidebar. If you didn’t have widgets on your blog before this, I recommend “Blog Stats” and “Follow Blog” at least.
  • Also in Appearance / Widgets, drag “Archives” and just a few widgets into the Footers. Your most important widgets need to be near the top of your blog.
  • If you want a header, go to Appearance / Header and upload your image. I used an image of mountains as a header in The Sovereign blog. I didn’t include a header on e4e.
  • I chose a background image for The Sovereign blog, but not for e4e. Go to Appearance / Customize. Choose BG Image in the right blue bar. I used “no repeat,” “right,” and “fixed.” I used the same image as the header image.
  • Go to Appearance / Theme Options to choose a font. I chose Georgia.
  • Also look through the rest of the options on the blue bar (under Appearance / Customize) for “Colors,” “Front,” and “Site Title.” Go to Appearance / Theme Options and Mobile to further customize your site.
  • Remember to put only the most important content in your widgets so your readers are not overwhelmed with choices.

Add a Little Bit More

  • For every post, include  an eye-catching photo and write an “excerpt.” (The excerpt window is under where you write your post.)  This short summary will appear on the home page rather than the entire post.
  • In Appearance / Widgets notice the option for an After Post under the Sidebars and Footers in the right column. This gives you the opportunity to post something you wish to repeat after every blog entry. Look for the after post between the post and the comments below.  I use the After Post to encourage readers to subscribe to weekly eMails and alerts about eMinistry opportunities through MailChimp. Use the After Post for dated events, too, like giveaways.
  • By the way, take a second to go to Settings / Discussions and at the very bottom of the page change the Comment Form to “What do you think?” or something more personable and inviting than the default, “Leave a reply.”
  • If you think you’re done, I still recommend you read the next two posts in this series for a bit more tweaking that you’ll want to know about.

Go for the eMagazine Look

Again, you may be happy with how your blog looks, with your most recent posts down the center of the page, like blogs are normally formatted, but you might also want the featured slider on your home page and menus.  I’ll go into these steps in a second post. (This has gotten to be very lengthy! If you don’t want to wait for me, the links in the first two note items below can help you move forward.) The next two posts in this series will be:

  1. about menus and the featured slider and
  2. about image sizes.

NOTES:

  • Responsive WordPress themes are readable from tablets, desktops, phones,… from whichever device your reader is using. If Oxygen looks like more than you want to handle, check out 15 Free WordPress Themes to Get You Started with Responsive Design. I don’t know which of these themes would be easier to use, probably the ones without a featured slider.
  • I’m indebted to Quick Tips for the WordPress Oxygen Theme to help me figure out the many details of using this free theme. Vicky also offers tips for WordPress.org Oxygen theme users.
  • I wrote this post for WordPress.com users, but the theme is also available for WordPress.org bloggers with more options. This video tutorial can help you get started.
  • A $30 custom design is available for Oxygen as well if you want to do more for the look of your blog.

45 thoughts on “How to Get Started with the Oxygen Theme for WordPress.com

  1. Hello,
    I was looking at your sovereign site and you have a header image in between the site name and menu. Everytime I insert a header image it overlaps the site name. How do you get both the image and site name to show? I’m this is something you must do through CSS.

    Like

    1. Ryan, I haven’t used CSS for any blogs yet… haven’t needed to. I just went into The Sovereign and see that my header image is 940 × 150 and I checked “Show header text with your image.” Does this help?

      Like

  2. Thank you for this post, it’s really useful! I just started a few weeks ago with wordpress and I like it! But, every time I upload a Article with several photo’s I don’t get the top photo of the article on the home page but a other photo. You can visit my blog at isabelcristinas.wordpress.com and than article: My design #3 Collar chain. You will see what I mean. Can I change this?

    Like

  3. Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve been racking my brain for the last few days trying to figure out how to add related posts to the bottom of each post.
    I currently use the oxygen theme, but can’t seem to figure it out. I see that you have it on your site, so now I know it’s possible, but how?
    Would you be able to tell me what to do in order to add that feature? I’d appreciate it very much!
    Thank you,
    Andrea

    Like

    1. Glad to help, Andrea! Go to Appearance / Widgets and look for “After Post.” It’s a nice feature, especially to encourage some response every time people read your posts. I use it, as you know, to remind readers about my MailChimp subscription.

      I went to see your blog and it’s looking great! The after post will be a good addition for you. You might also like to try out the Top Posts & Pages widget and choose the image grid option. I’m using it in my left sidebar.

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      1. Thank you so much! I didn’t see the “After Post” option, that’s wonderful!
        Now, I can’t seem to find the widget for ‘related posts’ to move into it – I’m horrible with stuff like this. What am I missing?
        Thank you for the suggestions and for taking the time to look at my blog – I’m going to look at the image grid option, I like how it looks!
        Thank you SO much!
        ~Andrea<3

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        1. The “related posts” is something I do manually although you could use Zemanta. I’m not sure what I think of the pros and cons of Zemanta, yet. My after post ends up further down then I’d like it to be. It’s the “Attention CCC staff” paragraph.

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      2. Okay, I’ve done a little investigating and it seems like on November 11th they turned this feature on for every blog, BUT they aren’t able to make it work properly with image heavy sites. I believe my blog may fall under that category.
        Too bad, I love that feature! Hopefully they’ll come up with something in the near future!
        Thanks again for all of your help! 😀
        ~Andrea

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        1. Glad to help.
          I’m curious about whether the related posts grid might work for you. Go into several of your most popular posts and pick one image for each post, making it the featured image for that post. I’m wondering if this is all you’d need to do to make it work. Add the widget to your sidebar, choose the number of images for your grid and whether you want Likes or views. Please let me know if this works! I’m guessing that without setting a featured image, WordPress doesn’t choose from the many images per post. By setting a featured image, maybe the widget will work.

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          1. Thanks so much for this Sus!
            I have featured images for all of my posts, but still no option for related posts appears in my widget.
            I wrote the WordPress team and never heard a response. I’m going to give up on it for the time being.
            I really appreciate your help with it, and if I see anything change with my options I’ll send you an update:)
            ~Andrea

            Like

  4. Hi,
    you said you would write about the menus and featured slider…I don t know if you included the front page…I have tried to make the following work (from the WordPress Oxygen manual); The Showcase Page template offers a featured slider for up to six Sticky Posts. To use the template, create or edit a page, and assign it to the Showcase Page template from the Page Attributes module. If you’d like use the Showcase Page template on your front page, go to Settings → Reading and set the Front page option to Static Page. Select the page you just assigned the Showcase Page template to as your front page and then choose another page to serve as your blog page”.

    It doesn t – the fron page just shows my latest blog entries!
    http://erikabrenner.wordpress.com/
    Thanks!

    Like

    1. Erika,

      Sorry to make you wait. I’m spending time with family for Thanksgiving.

      There’s hope, though, because you brought up something I’ve wanted to write about. I remember working through this myself when I set this blog up. It’ll take me a bit of research before I can reply, but I do want to do it.

      Like

  5. Hi,

    I run Oxygen for my Advernture/travel website and love the theme. Yes, it was a little confusing at first to figure out how to build pages and menus, but within a few hours I figured it out. I’m not a techie!

    I do have a question though, have you figured out a way to make your site look good on a phone? My sidebars show up before my posts in a strange order. It seems that others are also having this problem.

    Thank you!

    Like

  6. Hello Sus,
    great post, really useful! Would it be possible to ask you one more question? I see that in your blog The Sovereign you managed to get a nice long list of articles featured in the ‘recent posts’ section (while the Oxygen theme allows for three articles only) and get rid of the ‘other posts’ section.
    Is there any WordPress upgrade involved or you just did the magic?
    Many thanks!
    cristina

    Like

    1. Cristina,

      Glad this was helpful. I’ve wanted to write a “part two,” but haven’t found the time!

      If you’re referring to all the articles down the center, go into WP settings for “Reading” and set “Blog pages show at most” to what ever number you want. Hope that helps.

      I don’t understand the second part of your question….Show me a sample of “other posts” so I know what you’re referring to.

      Like

  7. Hi Sus

    Thank you for this run down.
    Questions:
    1) I am not getting a column on the right of my oxygen theme like you have here. I only have 3 menu location options: Primary, which is at the top; Secondary, which is on the left; and Subsidiary, which is at the bottom/footer. So how do I add a menu location to show on the right?
    2) How do I let my Primary menu flow all the way across the top like yours? I seem to have a limiting page size setting somewhere which aligns everything and eliminates/leaves blank the right hand side of my page?

    thank you!

    Like

    1. Hi, Nikodemis, just read your comment…

      1) The right is a sidebar, not a menu. Go to appearance / customize / widgets / secondary sidebar

      2) Taking care of the secondary sidebar (see #1) will correct a lot of what you’re looking for. For the Primary menu, it could be that your page names are too long. Go into the Appearance / Menus and shorten the names to Art, Education, Kitchen, etc. and see if that doesn’t take care of the problem. It’s also possible to have pages nested below the main ones. Move your cursor across my Primary sidebar to see what I mean.

      Let me know if this helps.
      Sus

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi again Sus, you are an absolute genius and as they say in Star Wars (if you will excuse my popular culture reference with respect!) – the Force is strong in you 🙂 It worked, I have a side menu with widgets n the right side of my page now!

        Like

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